Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Exquisite Ambiguities

Exquisite Ambiguities
By Tom Wachunas

    Sometimes I get the impression that Malone University’s Fine Arts Department wants to keep its exhibitions a secret. Even the department’s web page isn’t current at the moment. Were it not for the tip I received a few weeks ago from Malone graduate Rick Huggett (whose recent work at Gallery 6000 was reviewed here on April 27), I would not have visited the McFadden Gallery (lower level of the Johnson Center) to see the gem of a show he put together there for the summer. That’ll be the subject of the post following this one. After viewing it, I also saw the nearby exhibit in the Fountain Gallery and was completely stunned by its material and conceptual freshness – a freshness I don’t often encounter in these parts.

    “Interior Landscapes” is the name of this show of eight black and white pencil drawings on unbleached/unstretched muslin by Heather Bryson. At this point I can only guess that they’ll be on view for the duration of the summer. The captivating sound of falling water in the space’s fountain is the perfect complement to these contemplative works. Deceivingly simple, sometimes sparse in content, their substance nonetheless appears to breathe, literally and otherwise, as the air movement in the exhibition space makes their sheer surfaces flutter ever so gently against the wall.

    In her statement posted with the show, Bryson calls her drawings non-traditional self- portraits that began by imagining the insides of her physical body, and evolved into somehow linking the imagery up with - or drawing out – emotional energy or associations. The resulting configurations delineate symbolic, organic landscapes of a kind, or perhaps amorphous, surreal figures. In any case, they’re more lyrically suggestive than formally illustrative of specific structures or feelings.  Their spatial ambiguities add to their dichotomous nature: morphing yet permanent, airy yet dense, seen yet unseen.

    And for all of their delicate, tentative appearance, these are solidly, refreshingly hypnotic essences.

    Photo: pencil drawings on muslin by Heather Bryson, on view at Fountain Gallery, located in The Johnson Center, Malone University, 2600 Cleveland Ave. NW

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